(I wrote this at this stage of the last presidential campaign. Sadly, I don’t need to change a word.)
(with grateful thanks to George Orwell, H.L. Mencken, Dr. Seuss and Joss Whedon)
Winston Smith sat in a corner where he was pretty sure the telescreen couldn’t see him, and he wrote in a journal. He questioned whether the vision of reality that came from state-controlled media was true. The more he thought and the words flowed from his mind and fingers, the angrier and more frustrated he felt, until he realized he was writing over and over, DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER.
Are human beings brutish and violent at their core? Is there nothing, when all veneer is stripped away, except violence and hatred? That is what they would have us believe – or perhaps: That is what they believe, and so they appeal to our hatred and the dark corner of our souls that most of us keep in check but some of us exercise in the most horrifying ways.
Some of these manipulators express themselves with blunt force trauma – name calling and insults and straightforward hate. Others are more subtle – barely – separating us into intellectual camps and cubby holes by race and creed and gender and religion and sexual preferences until the categorization of individuals into groups creates a list longer than your arm, and then claiming to be champions of each cubby hole. But oh, those who object to the categorization of individuals, a special hatred is reserved for those people.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and therefore more willing to turn to the practical politician to be led to safety) through an endless series of imaginary hobgoblins.
Imaginary. Hobgoblins. The threat of the other.
The practical politician says, “I will save you. I will rescue you from the other. Trust me to lead you to safety. Put your safety and security in my hands and I will give you peace. Let me attach this leash to your neck to better guide you. Let me explain the rules you must follow to keep your behavior and your property in line. Do you trust me? Give me your life.”
But here in the quiet, away from the clamoring of the politicians, no thuggishness and violence ooze from our core – just relief and an awe of the miracle that is life. Our neighbor is an individual, not a group member, and he/she is working to make a better life, to survive, to feed her family, just like anyone else. I don’t know and I don’t care if he prefers his toast butter side up or butter side down. I have no need to beat him; I just want to go my way. (Dr. Seuss and Joss Whedon references back to back. Whoa.)
I am weary of being told my neighbor is – or I am – the cause of all the turmoil in the world. I am weary of being told that my neighbor is – or I am – a threat to the rest of us. I am weary of being told that my neighbor is – or I am – a hobgoblin. I know my neighbor, and I know myself. I see no hobgoblins, only angry and grasping demagogues pointing to imaginary hobgoblins in every direction. I know that I am not the hobgoblin they say I am – and if they are wrong about me, they are probably wrong about my neighbor.
Political conventions and campaigns are Orwell’s Hate Minute on steroids. Perhaps if there are true hobgoblins, they are the ones who organize these hate fests. We need no politicians to lead us to safety from exaggerated or non-existent threats, and certainly not by turning our power and our freedom over to them.
They are – and listen to me falling into the same rhetorical trap. “They.” “Us.” “Them.”
Assailed by hobgoblins, we organize into camps, and when we run out of hobgoblins, we present another camp as the new hobgoblin – but all of it is a figment of our imaginations.
Both major parties engage in this. Both major parties have elevated warriors who extol the dangers of imaginary hobgoblins – no hobgoblin more dangerous than the other party’s warrior.
Here’s the bottom line: They both want you delirious with fear and hate. Don’t give them that pleasure. And above all, don’t turn your freedom over to them. Down with Big Brother.
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STARTING FRIDAY: After Dystopia
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